We’re in awe of this dood’s bio. Yeppers, Phoef is a dood. We think that’s very cool too. Anyway:
by Daniel S. Boucher
Phoef Sutton was born in Washington DC. He cut his eye teeth as a playwright, but first made a living as a writer in TV. He worked on the classic NBC series CHEERS for eight years, and went on to write movies (THE FAN, MRS. WINTERBOURNE) and also serve as consulting producer and writer for BOSTON LEGAL and TERRIERS. He lives in South Pasadena, CA and Vinalhaven ME with his wife and two daughters.
You worked on the hit show CHEERS with NBC for eight years and then went on to film, writing scripts for MRS WINTERBOURNE (1996, Shirley MacLaine, Brendan Fraser) and THE FAN (1996, Robert De Niro, Wesley Snipes). Was it a considerable shift to go from writing for the small screen to the big screen?
You know, it’s funny, I’ve written in just about every form imaginable: Prose, plays, multi-camera comedy, hour drama and film. And approach every one of them from the same angle –character. If the character holds an interest for me, the form doesn’t really make that much difference. A story is about interesting characters doing interesting things.
How did you get your start producing and writing for film and TV? Was it something you always “knew you’d do,” or was there more to it than that?
I always knew I wanted to be a writer. As far a producing and writing for TV, I didn’t really know that career existed. All I knew about being a television writer came from watching episodes of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW – which is actually pretty accurate! I came out to L.A. wanting to “be a writer.” Nothing more specific than that. I had a college friend, Barbara Hall, who was writing for NEWHART and she told me to write a “spec script” – sort of an audition script for the show. I wrote several drafts and Barbara helped me with them. I submitted it to the show. Then Barbara and everyone she knew left the show. So the script was in the office, but no one who knew me was working there. I chalked it up to bad luck and went on with my life. THREE YEARS later somebody at NEWHART read it, liked it and called me up to take me to lunch. I’d forgotten all about the script, but a free lunch was not to be turned down. They didn’t have a job for me, but they encouraged me. An agent got the script to Heide Perlman at CHEERS. And the rest, as they say…
What are some of your most memorable moments working in television and film? Have you met a lot of great actors? Do you have any juicy gossip (past or present) that you can share? Was there ever anyone who was just phenomenal or impossible to work with?
It’s been my pleasure to work with some legendary, monster talents. Aside from Ted Danson and the cast of CHEERS, I’ve worked with John Cleese, Sheldon Leonard, Brian Dennehy, Cloris Leachman, Robert De Niro, Shirley MacLaine, Rickie Lake, Celeste Holm, Victor Garber, Michael Chiklis, Ray McKinnon, Garrett Dillahunt, Cheech Marin… and Rob Schneider. I have nothing bad to say about any of them… except Rob Schneider. He’s a real a-hole.